Republicans begin election year with focus on border issues

House Republicans are beginning a crucial election year with a heightened focus on border issues as negotiations in the Senate on asylum policy changes drag on and the conference prepares to bring impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), in the first major event as part of that push, is leading a group of Republicans on a trip to the border near Eagle Pass, Texas on Wednesday.

Around 60 members are expected to join him in the area represented Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) — two of the men who would be at the center of any impeachment effort against Mayorkas.

The trip is just the latest instance of Johnson getting more vocal about the border, which is increasingly looking like a big focus for the GOP in 2024, where the White House and majorities in Congress will be on the line this fall.

In December, Johnson sent a letter to President Biden urging him to take executive actions to address high border crossings, namely to impose stricter immigration policies and to restart construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

And last week, Johnson took another swipe at the Biden administration over Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussing “the benefit of regularizing the situation of long-term undocumented Hispanic migrants and DACA recipients” with Mexican President López Obrador.

“This development further demonstrates the Administration has no real intention of solving the humanitarian disaster and immediate national security crisis their policies have created,” Johnson said in a statement, taking a swipe at the president’s vacation in St. Croix between Christmas and New Year’s Day: “President Biden needs to stop vacationing and take immediate steps to stop the flow of illegal immigration into our country.”

Republicans have long made migration issues central to their messaging efforts, even passing a sweeping package, the H.R. 2 Secure the Border bill, that would limit asylum protections earlier this year.

But the issue is getting heightened attention from House GOP leaders now that the dust has settled from inter-party battles and the toppling of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — and as a bipartisan group of senators have struggled for weeks to hash out a deal on border policy changes as a condition for Ukraine funding.

Gonzales said that getting 60 members of Congress to go on the border trip two days after New Year’s — marking the 21st delegation he’s hosted at the border — “is a small miracle and shows we are committed as a group.”

All the while, House GOP scorn for Mayorkas — who hardline conservative have long called impeach — has ticked up in the House GOP.

Republicans have upped the ante on their impeachment effort, pledging to soon take action on a matter that has taken a backseat to the inquiry into President Biden — even as the DHS secretary was the first to be the subject of an impeachment resolution. 

While the House has twice referred a Mayorkas impeachment inquiry to the House Homeland Security Committee — declining to take an immediate vote on the House floor — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said she received a guarantee from Johnson and Green that a Mayorkas impeachment vote would come in short order as she retracted a second resolution to boot him from his job. 

Green said the committee’s January schedule would be occupied with a series of hearings dedicated to the topic. 

“We’re going to have about three or four hearings in January, and then we’re going to mark up the impeachment articles that have been written,” Green said during a late-December appearance on Fox News. 

To Democrats, the interview highlighted that Republicans have already decided how to proceed — with the hearings leading to an outcome that has apparently already been drafted. 

“The House majority is wasting valuable time and taxpayer dollars pursuing a baseless political exercise that has been rejected by members of both parties and already failed on a bipartisan vote. There is no valid basis to impeach Secretary Mayorkas, as senior members of the House majority have attested, and this extreme impeachment push is a harmful distraction from our critical national security priorities,” DHS said in a statement after Green’s interview. 

“Secretary Mayorkas and the Department of Homeland Security will continue working every day to keep Americans safe.” 

Green is feeling confident about his ability to turn the tide after members of his party joined Democrats in preventing a Mayorkas impeachment resolution from leapfrogging to the floor. 

“This guy needs to go, and I’ve got to convince eight Republicans – I think we can do that. That’s what we’re working on right now,” Green said. 

The chair criticized some of his colleagues for “rushing the thing to the floor without a due process” – a counter to his own approach which has involved numerous hearings bringing in Trump-era immigration officials and announcing in June what he called a five-point plan to review Mayorkas’s “dereliction of duty.”

“That’s why I think many of those eight voted no. And I’ve spoken to all eight, most of them just want a due process to happen, and we’ve been doing that now for several months. That investigation wraps up this month, and then we will do a proceeding in January,” Green added.

While some Republicans like Green have claimed Mayorkas is derelict in his duty to manage the border, it’s not clear that is an impeachable offense or even a legal term outside its use in the military. 

Republicans have also claimed Mayorkas has violated the law, failing to meet the standards of the Secure Fence Act, which defines operational control of the border as a status in which not a single person or piece of contraband improperly enters the country. 

But not a single secretary of Homeland Security has met that standard of perfection, something Mayorkas has pointed out as the GOP has grilled him on the law.

“I use a lens of reasonableness in defining operational control. Are we maximizing the resources we have to deliver the most effective results? And under that definition, we are doing so very much to gain operational control,” Mayorkas said, touting the resources sent to the border.

The action in the House comes as Senate negotiations on aid for Ukraine have swept in immigration issues as Republicans say they won’t send funding to the country without restrictions on asylum as migrants increasingly seek the protections designed for those escaping persecution.

Thus far, House Republicans have largely been on the sidelines of those negotiations, even as some have called for any package to include measures from their own hardline immigration bill.

“I am hopeful the visit will provide a new perspective for our conference when they see the crisis that my district has been dealing with for years — we’re beyond a breaking point,” Gonzales said in a statement. “In order for the chaos to end, the White House and both chambers of Congress need to come together and pass a national security package with tangible solutions to address the problems at our southern border. That’s my focus — delivering solutions.”

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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